Fires had been a bane to the operators for the United Verde mine since the first one broke out in 1894. But when geologists discovered that some of the mine's highest grade ore was located beneath the Jerome smelter, plans were made to switch to open pit mining.
JEROME - By 1912, mining claims had been filed on nearly every square inch of land in and around Jerome’s fabulously rich United Verde Mine.
Extensively faulted, the Black Hills in general and Cleopatra Hill in particular presented a puzzle to geologists and a challenge to anyone hoping to find the next bonanza. As a result many claim holders spent more time peddling stock than sinking shafts.
And those that did make an effort often stopped as soon as they hit ore with a promising assay, fearing they would dig past the load bearing rock and lose any chance they had to sell at a profit.
In 1912 there were several syndicates actually sinking shafts, attempting to locate what many thought was still out there waiting to be found -- the other half of the ore body that was making William Clark and the United Verde the envy of the mining world.
Hull Copper Company, Jerome-Verde, Calumet-Arizona, Arkansas and Arizona, Cleopatra Copper Company and others had spent untold thousands of dollars looking for what geologists believed to be the down-faulted portion of the United Verde.
One of the most promising spots was beneath a small claim located just east of the United Verde mine.
Originally claimed when a surveyor discovered a triangular piece of land, less than an acre in size and located adjacent to the United Verde, had gone unclaimed, more than a half million dollars had been put into the Little Daisy since 1900.
Then in 1912, James Douglas and his partner George Tenner took an option on the property and raised an additional $225,000. But instead of sinking more money down the same shaft, Douglas and Tenner opened a new one.
Three years later, at the 1,400-foot level, they hit the big one. The United Verde Extension became Jerome’s second bonanza.
Changes above ground
In many ways, Jerome had been on the brink of one thing or another since its beginnings, be it the next bonanza, the next empty hole or the possibility that it would one day slide off the side of Cleopatra Hill and into obscurity.
But by 1912, a sense of permanency had begun to settle in, as had about 2,500 residents.
Four devastating fires had swept its downtown in the 1890s, changing the face of the town from wood and canvas to brick, stone and concrete.
Huge dormitories/hotels built for the many single men (Jerome was 72 percent male, according to the 1910 census) were testaments to belief that the mine was not going to close anytime soon.
Nor was the decision by the Jerome board of education to begin construction of a new, concrete high school.
The T.F. Miller Company store, which served as the United Verde Copper Company’s de facto company store, stood tall at three stories high on the street side (four on the back side). The top floor was the Jerome Opera House.
The opera, the upscale Conner Hotel, also made of brick, and a four-story brick hospital combined to make the statement that Jerome was as cosmopolitan as any prosperous city, anywhere in the West.
Even some of the saloons, such as the Fashion, which was built of concrete and cost a reported $20,000, exuded a sense of permanency.
The United Verde and Pacific narrow gauge railroad, which ran six days a week and brought visitors from around the country and around the world, helped put it all on display.
But as nice as the world was turning above ground, what was going on below ground in 1912 would change the face of Jerome yet again, as well the surrounding countryside.
Since 1894, a series of fires had begun cutting off access to rich ore.
The first started by spontaneous combustion in 1894 in the Wade Hampton stope of the United Verde. A second fire broke out beneath the Chrome claim, and eventually a third one started in a drift running between the Wade Hampton and the Chrome.
They were all still burning in 1912.
When geologists determined that the richest ore above the fires was beneath the Jerome Smelter, mine owner William Clark made two decisions -- move his smelter to the valley and begin the time-consuming and expensive transition from underground mining to open pit.
Starting in 1910 William Clark began purchasing land for his new smelter. He also purchased the Haskell Ranch for its water, as his plans also called for building a city to go with the smelter.
And he started buying ranches, orchards and farms within several miles of the smelter site. Having been sued numerous times for smelter smoke damage at his Montana Mine, Clark was well aware that once the new smelter fired up, there would be crop damage for miles around.
About the same time he also cut a deal with the Santa Fe Railroad, offering to finance the construction of a standard gauge rail line from Cedar Glade to a site adjacent to the Verde River where he planned to build the smelter.
Between 1911 and 1917, Clark built a new smelter, relocated his narrow gauge United Verde and Pacific Railroad, built three more railroads, constructed the Town of Clarkdale and dug the 7,200-foot Hopewell Tunnel to deliver ore to the new smelter.
An independent streak
Twice over the 10 years leading up to statehood, Clark had found himself at odds with political powers in Prescott. Both times he and/or his agents suggested separating Jerome, and everything that went with it, from the west side of Mingus Mountain to create a new county.
In 1912 he found himself embroiled in a lawsuit over the county’s assessed valuation of his mine property. A certain split was avoided when the board of supervisors reduced the United Verde’s tax burden to its 1911 level of $28,122.
The Arizona Supreme Court ultimately overturned the supervisors’ decision and Clark was forced to pay $92,087. At the time he was the richest man in America, reportedly taking in a personal profit of $1 million a month from the United Verde Mine.
Horse to horsepower
But of all the changes occurring in 1912, perhaps the most observable to the human eye was taking place in the streets of Jerome. By all accounts, newspapers, photographs and otherwise, Jerome was making the shift from horses to horseless carriages.
As early as 1903, Jerome dentist Lee Hawkins, along with his friend Walter Miller, had chugged into town behind the wheel of a new Franklin touring car.
At the time few thought the automobile could safely and reliably negotiate Jerome’s steep and rough terrain. But it wasn’t long after Hawkins and Miller arrived that others were making the switch.
The change wasn’t restricted to the wealthy. Companies that had relied on horse and cart or mules and wagons began buying motor trucks.
A newspaper account from October 1912 tells of the purchase of two trucks capable of hauling 4 tons each to be used by the farmers of the Verde Valley to deliver their produce to Jerome.
Five months later, Dave Wingfield of Camp Verde announced the purchase of a two-ton truck to haul produce from Camp Verde to Clarkdale.